Last night, Dell and Springboard Enterprises — a network of investors and entrepreneurs dedicated to fostering women-led businesses — hosted its Women Funding Women event in Toronto.
The night was the second stop in a seven-city worldwide tour to cities like Brooklyn, Amsterdam, Paris, Austin, Sydney, and Tokyo. Women Funding Women is meant to showcase the stories of women funding their companies, and provide actionable insight for women figuring how to fund the next stage of growth in their companies.
Packed with founders, investors, and community supporters, the venue also provided a meeting point for women in the Toronto tech ecosystem.
One of the supporters present was Michelle Holland, a city councillor and official advocate for the innovation economy. As Dell announced that its next global DWEN Summit would take place in Toronto in July, she talked about the need to share these stories — both of Toronto’s burgeoning ecosystem and the need to include marginalized communities in tech’s prosperity.
“My role is the branding of the ecosystem. That’s where the city can lend a hand. We know we’re punching above our weight Toronto is doing phenomenal with the tech ecosystem. The problem is that the word is not getting out,” said Holland.
“Women have long been involved in tech, it’s just that everything is becoming more and more tech. We want to make sure that whatever event we’re going to, whatever panel we’re on or discussion we’re involved with, that women and anyone from a diverse population is at the table, no matter what. We want that [inclusiveness] so people feel that through this slow process of evolution, that they’re being included on the journey.”
A great turnout of #womenentrepreneurs at the #womenfundingwomen event hosted by Springboard and Bell @EYnews. A shout out to Caroline Somers and Sue Abu-Hakima – two great Ottawa based #womenintech. pic.twitter.com/kQYc3JuMC1
— Michelle Scarborough (@michelle_scarb) January 15, 2018
This idea of connecting and building networks is a focus for Dell as part of their Women’s Entrepreneurship Network, which publishes reports and hosts events in an effort to shine a spotlight on women’s entrepreneurship globally.
“We want to have the conversation around funding to help women get funding because we all know how difficult it is with venture capital funding, so we want to look at the different ways,” said DWEN director Ingrid Devin, alluding to depressing numbers around the number of women that actually receive VC funding. For that reason, Devin suggested that women should look to alternative investing, such as angels, to get their companies funded.
“We can’t just focus on VC funding because it’s not happening. We did a workshop on alternative methods of funding. And that’s what we want to get out there to women. For women who have never gone for funding thinking, ‘why would I do this?’ We want to show them how to do it.”
That sentiment was echoed in a fireside chat with Suhayya Abu-Hakima, co-founder, CEO, and president Amika Mobile, and Caroline Somers, CEO of Cassidy Bay Group and an investor in Amika, where they talked about building relationships with investors and securing funding.
Here for @DellSmbCA's #womenfundingwomen event to learn more about how women can kick off their financing. Alternative funding models vs. VC as the default is one key part of it. pic.twitter.com/CuGXfTpXWj
— Jessica Galang (@jessicagalangg) January 15, 2018
Joking that “there’s no money for women, and that I’ll keep repeating that until there’s money,” Abu-Hakima suggested that women leverage programs like SR&ED and NRC-IRAP to get their companies started, and understand the importance of networking. “The power of relationships is not only will you meet people who will be angel investors, but you get a network as well. You build these great networks that you can leverage.”
But building networks doesn’t stop after you’ve secured your funding. “Keep investors engaged, especially angels. They’re doing this because they want to see the ecosystem grow,” said Somers.
The event also featured pitches from Waterloo-based Plum.io, Fredericton-founded SomaDetect, Toronto-based Heartbeat.ai, and Pickering-based BrainFx. While many tech events often take the approach of providing constructive feedback to pitches, the audience spent the evening raising their hands to provide tangible help. There were many instances of offering to provide connections, expertise, or encouragement for their industry.
“There are absolutely some added challenges when you are a woman entrepreneur. Certainly when you’re trying to raise funds, and that comes just because by nature it’s a pattern matching activity. I think a lot of people’s idea of what an entrepreneur is is not a 5’2 woman of colour,” said Bethany Desphande, CEO of SomaDetect. SomaDetect, which builds a sensor that helps farmers measure milk quality — was recently a winner of 43North’s $1 million prize. “I think creating the networks is really what it takes to move it forward.”
Photo via Twitter